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UK News

Christian public policy charity urges Gov to keep up with public opinion, as survey shows most want stricter gambling laws

by Tola Mbakwe

Campaigners say public support for a ban on all gambling for under-18s and a £2 limit for online slot machines should embolden the Government to introduce more robust safety measures. 

The Gambling Health Alliance (GHA) found just eight per cent of gamblers and five per cent of non-gamblers would oppose a £2 limit for online slots, in line with the Fixed Odds Betting Terminal maximum bet amount that was cut from £100 to £2 in 2019.

Online slot machines have soared in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic as lockdowns and the cancellation of sporting events have seen gamblers turning to the games in record numbers.

Campaigners said there is also little opposition to a ban on VIP schemes, which can encourage gamblers to bet more than they would otherwise; a new levy on the gambling industry to support independent research; education and treatment of gambling harms; or for gambling products to only be allowed to enter the market once the level of harm they cause has been assessed and found to be below a certain level.

The government is in the process of reviewing the 2005 Gambling Act. The GHA said its polling suggested there was public appetite for the Government to take a public health approach in its current review to protect the whole population from gambling harm.

A consultation on the review led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is due to end this month.

James Mildred from Christian public policy charity told Premier: "I think when it comes to the issue of gambling and how our laws are framed, I think we have to accept that the approach taken in 2005 through the Gambling Act was just the wrong approach.

"It was an approach of its time, and things have changed enormously since then. Back in 2005, the idea was deregulation… you empower gambling companies to make their own decisions when it comes to customer safety. Since then, there's been the rise of online gambling."

The GHA poll found the majority of gamblers and non-gamblers said they would support a ban on all gambling advertising in or near sports grounds or venues and affordability checks for anyone who gambles.

Some 57 per cent of gamblers and 63 per cent of non-gamblers support a ban on all gambling for under-18s, who are currently able to access low-stake fruit machines, coin pushers and crane grabs.

Mildred added: "Clearly, the laws need to change. The public has been exposed to heart-breaking stories of what gambling addiction can lead to, in the worst cases, it leads to tragic suicides."

GHA spokeswoman Louisa Mason said: "For too long the gambling ecosystem has developed into a powerful mechanism that has the potential to unleash harm and devastate lives. We now have the chance to do better and protect all those who gamble in the UK - and the public supports this."

Yonder surveyed 2,094 UK adults in February.

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